Scripture Journal Challenge: Earth Has No Sorrow That Heaven Can’t Heal

Can we just admit that life is hard?

Can we stop hiding our sorrow and pain and struggles and difficulties and let people in on what’s going on?

I truly believe that if we did, we’d all be better for it.

Because no one-really, truly no one-is spared from some kind of problem. And for many of us, it has nothing to do with our own choices. It’s visited upon us from the outside.

It comes out of nowhere, happens fast and suddenly consumes every aspect of our lives.

If you are a believer in Jesus, you might think you should be immune to these hardships. You might do a quick calculation and decide that, on balance, you’ve led a pretty decent life and certainly God should notice and spare you and yours from awful tragedy.

Or you might look around and notice all those who leave hurt and heartache in their wake and wonder why they seem to live a charmed life while death and destruction have visited yours.

No matter how you try to disguise it, death is a hard pill to swallow.

Jesus didn’t deny that.

Today’s verses are some of the most poignant in His long discourse to the disciples as He was preparing them for His death.

Jesus knew they had questions to ask of Him, so He approached them.
Jesus: Are you trying to figure out what I mean when I say you will see Me in a little while? 20 I tell you the truth, a time is approaching when you will weep and mourn while the world is celebrating. You will grieve, but that grief will give birth to great joy. 21-22 In the same way that a woman labors in great pain during childbirth only to forget the intensity of the pain when she holds her child, when I return, your labored grief will also change into a joy that cannot be stolen.
23 When all this transpires, you will finally have the answers you have been seeking. I tell you the truth, anything you ask of the Father in My name, He will give to you. 24 Until this moment, you have not sought after anything in My name. Ask and you will receive so that you will be filled with joy.

John 16: 19-24 VOICE

Notice that Jesus didn’t wait for his disciples to approach Him with their questions. Out of compassion and love, He approached THEM.

He does the same with us today.

Many of the questions I’ve struggled with since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven are answered in Scripture.

That’s why it is so, so important to read my Bible. Some days I use a concordance to help me find pertinent verses, sometimes the Holy Spirit brings them to mind. Not every question will be answered this side of eternity. But at the least I am reminded of God’s faithful love and trustworthy character.

Jesus begins by asserting what He knows is true but wants them to affirm: “You’ve got some questions, don’t you?”

Then He acknowledges their pain. He doesn’t shy away from saying that things will feel unfair. It will appear as though evil has won and the Kingdom of God defeated.

But then He offers hope.

Their grief will ultimately turn to joy.

I think this joy is twofold-they had a taste of it when Jesus revealed Himself as Risen Savior during the forty days after the resurrection. But the fullness of that joy for them, like us, is only available in eternity.

Childbirth as analogy for this life leading into the next is so helpful!

When laboring to bring forth a baby, no one knows for sure how long that terrible pain will last. In the middle of it, more than one mama has thought (and sometimes said or screamed), “I don’t want to do this!”

But that same mama, when handed her precious child, often bursts into joyous tears that wash away the memory of how impossible it all seemed just moments before.

How many of us would gladly go through every moment of pain to have our child back in our arms?

No woman is pregnant forever.

Sooner or later that baby will be born.

This life of travail won’t last forever either.

By death or transformation, we will be freed from this earthly tent. The worn out and worn down will be restored and renewed.

One day-one glorious Day-I will have every answer I seek.

Jesus says, “when I return” and “when this transpires” their grief will turn to joy.

I have a foretaste of ultimate joy in the comfort, ministry and companionship of the Holy Spirit. But I cannot know fullness of joy until Jesus returns.

And that joy will overwhelm every heartache.

QUESTIONS:

  • Can you relate to the disciples’ fear of asking Jesus their questions? Why or why not?
  • Do you have a concordance? Do you know how to use it? Have you ever looked up verses when you had a specific question?
  • Just as it’s really impossible to describe both the intensity of the pain of childbirth and the intensity of the joy of holding your baby, it’s impossible for us to fully comprehend how the pain of this life will eventually be swallowed up by joy in eternity. Write 3 ways you think this is a good analogy. How might this help you hold onto hope in the long “labor” of life while waiting for “delivery” on God’s promises?
  • I admit I’m impatient for some of the answers to my questions. I have to remind my heart that no amount of time will seem long in comparison to what waits for me. How do you help your heart make peace with the idea that many, many years may stretch before you without answers?
  • C.S. Lewis was a gifted writer and faithful follower of Jesus. Read the quote above slowly, repeatedly and thoughtfully. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Lord, You do not despise my questions.

You don’t expect me to transcend my frail human understanding. When I bring my questions to You, you may not give me the answer I seek but You always give me mercy, grace and more of Yourself.

Help me hold onto the word picture You shared with Your disciples. No labor lasts forever. I can rest assured that however long life lasts for me on earth, it will be but the tiniest blip in light of eternity. Agony here-yes, and often more than I think I can bear. But joy unspeakable is waiting!

Thank You for the hope I have in Jesus. Thank You for Your grace.

Give me strength to endure no matter how hard it may become. Help me finish strong and enter Heaven with “Hallelujah!” on my lips.

Amen

Quiet Desperation

I’d say my relationship with God right now is one of quiet desperation.  

I know, know, know that He is in control.  

I absolutely believe that Dominic is safe with Him and that He will hold onto me even when I can’t hold onto Him.  

I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand.

John 10:28 VOICE

But I am also often like a petulant child who comes to the dinner table knowing full well I won’t be refused yet angry I have to come at all.  I want to provide for myself (yet can’t!) since things haven’t gone my way.

I eat because I need the sustenance but it doesn’t always taste good going down.  Afterwards I go away full and satisfied yet there’s still some leftover discord.

I’m thankful and question in the same breath.  

It’s uncomfortable.  

But there is nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to-the Lord is my Light and my Salvation.  

Lord, if we were to go, whom would we follow? You speak the words that give everlasting life. We believe and recognize that You are the Holy One sent by God.

John 6:68-69 VOICE

 

Holy Week 2019: Maundy Thursday

Today is the day on the church calendar when we pause and reflect on the Last Supper, and the last words of Jesus to His disciples.

A year’s worth of sermons is contained in John 13-17 but this week I have been drawn to just one verse:

[Jesus said] “Now I am giving you a new command—love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have such love for one another.”

John 13:34 PHILLIPS

Read the rest here:  Maundy Thursday

Repost: Light Years

Since I’m spending time with my new grandson, I’ll be offering a few more reposts than usual this week.  If you haven’t seen them, I hope you enjoy them for the first time.  If you have already read them, I hope they are a blessing just the same.

Thank you for all the prayers and encouragement as our family rallies around this new life and helps him fight to gain the strength and size to come home.  ❤

Part of my Lenten observance includes reading the book of John.  

The words are not new to me, I’ve read them over and over-probably dozens of times in the past 30 years.  So I decided to use a different translation this time around in order to shake out some new insights and cause me to pay closer attention to what God might have for me right here, right now.

The very first reading did just that.

Read the rest here:  Light Years

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Preceded by John

The story of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist is one of my favorites for so many reasons.  

It speaks hope to my heart: these two old folks had given up on the idea that they might yet have a child, yet God brought forth life where human thinking said it was impossible.  

It wasn’t just ANY life, it was a promised life, a planned life, a purposeful life.  John came in the spirit and power of Elijah to make hearts ready for Messiah.

And then there is the oh, so understandable reaction of Zechariah when he was told he’d be a father:  “Really?  How can I be sure?”

zechariah

I imagine any one of us would feel the same way, even if we didn’t open our mouths and let the thought escape.

On the other side of fifty, my life feels kind of dried up and worn out. 

Burying my son has drained  much of the giddiness I once felt that things could only get better and better.  My heart tends to look on the less-than-bright side most days.  

waiting with hope water

But just like Elizabeth and Zechariah, God still has a plan for me. 

He has not forgotten who or where I am.

I am not beyond His touch.  

So I wait-hopefully with a little more faith than Zechariah-for God to bring forth the life He desires from my inward parts.

He can do it.

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest by the name of Zechariah from the priestly group of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was from the family of Aaron.[a] Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded. But they did not have children. Elizabeth could not have any, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were already old.

One day Zechariah’s group of priests were on duty, and he was serving God as a priest. According to the custom of the priests, he had been chosen to go into the Lord’s temple that day and to burn incense,[b]10 while the people stood outside praying.

11 All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar. 12 Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel. 13 But the angel told him:

Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. 14 His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad. 15 Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.

16 John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah[c] had. And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to. That is how John will get people ready for the Lord.

Luke 1:5-17 CEV

Who Can See the Wind?

I’m a stickler for accurate theology.

While that might make for interesting and lively debate with fellow believers, force of habit limits my imagination when it comes to what I believe with certainty about Heaven.

So on the other side of sending my child ahead of me to live with Jesus, I find I wish I were more free to make up scenes of what he might be doing there.  But I cannot, no matter how hard I try, create a movie-style narrative that includes him and the saints that have gone before.

And that leaves a gaping hole in addition to the unfillable abyss in my heart of where Dominic used to be.

I also do not believe my son sends me signs from heaven.  I wrote about that here a few months ago.  Although I do believe that God Himself can and does use the natural world to encourage my heart and give me hope.

And approaching the third anniversary of Dominic’s leaving, I need a little encouragement to hope.

So a few weeks ago I did something for myself that I probably should have done long before.  I bought six beautiful sets of windchimes-different lengths, different tones-and hung them all around my house under the porch eaves where even the slightest breeze sets them swaying.

They help me remember what Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up. Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God.” ( John 3:8 VOICE)

They help me remember that God drew Dominic to Himself by His Spirit when he was a little boy in ways I can’t see or fully understand.

They help me remember that God was present and working on the day He called him Home.

They help me remember that God is working right now to hold my heart steady and help me rest firmly on His promise that we will be together one day for eternity.

God has not abandoned me.

Every tinkling sings hope to my heart.

fatih sees the invisible sun and flowers

 

 

 

Light Years

Part of my Lenten observance includes reading the book of John.  

The words are not new to me, I’ve read them over and over-probably dozens of times in the past 30 years.  So I decided to use a different translation this time around in order to shake out some new insights and cause me to pay closer attention to what God might have for me right here, right now.

The very first reading did just that:

 Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

    The Voice was and is God.
This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;
    His speech shaped the entire cosmos.
Immersed in the practice of creating,
    all things that exist were birthed in Him.
His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched.

John 1: 1-5 VOICE

What struck me fresh was verse 5-“A light that THRIVES….BLAZES….It CANNOT and WILL NOT  be quenched.”

light shines edge of earth

So many times I think of light as barely fighting back darkness.  I carry my flashlight to check on the horses and its piercing beam burns through to give me limited visibility.  It FEELS like darkness wins and I push it back only a little.

But what this rendering of John 1:5 declares to my heart is this:  The light of Christ isn’t fighting the darkness, it thrives in the darkness.  It’s in the darkness that its power is revealed.

It’s the darkness that makes light undeniably present.

Darkness can and will be vanquished.

But the True Light will last forever.

I know very, very little about astronomy.  But I do know this:  Light generated eons ago is still traveling through space.  Light doesn’t end.  It goes on and on and on.

So even though this part of my life is dark, even though I may have trouble discerning the Light, the darkness hasn’t quenched it.

The Light is coming.

It’s no battle of equals.

The darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

sunrise brightest
Summer meadow park on sunset